Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Saturday, June 24, 2006

In the Duckhouse

Yesterday I took my usual Friday jaunt for a book fix. As I turned on the busy street in front of the library I thought I was seeing things. Two fat white ducks were waddling officiously across the road, oblivious or at least unconcerned about the resulting traffic snarl. Joining the chorus of surrounding drivers I laughed right out loud.

It was at that moment I recalled the joy my son and his father had shared with our two pet ducks---and the ensuing heartache. My first blog incorporated a brief account of the duck story but didn't convey the complexity of the situation. I'd like to write about it now.

My husband Ben was brilliant, sensitive and emotionally crippled. His precarious and violent childhood with his mother in Russia was followed by rejection and ridicule by his father when the family was finally reunited in America after WWI. As I pointed out in an earlier post, Ben and I were brought together by propinquity and resignation. We were at the same place at the same time. I was fat. He was shy. We were lonely. It was a slow day. So we got married.

The early years after our son Jack was born were the best of our marriage. We were both happy to focus on our precious little boy. Although he seldom spoke to either of us, Ben did everything he could to give Jack the happiest childhood possible. When Jack was about three years old Ben brought home two ducks. Ben loved animals but had never been allowed to have a pet. He was determined Jack would.

Ben set about building a home for the two birds constructing a detailed and darling duckhouse complete with chimney, shutters and decorative paint job. He let Jack "help" with the entire project. I remember watching them out in the yard together; Ben uncharacteristically talking to Jack---explaining and even laughing. In the weeks that followed our little family shared many hours watching our ducks enjoy their fine new home. Ben was so happy he had provided something so wonderful for his son.

But it didn't last. One afternoon our bored and nosey neighbor showed up and announced she had called the Health Department to report a sanitation violation. Our ducks were barnyard poultry--nasty, dirty and unwelcome in our "refined" neighborhood. They would have to go.

We lived with my precious mother-in-law Sarah. She tried to make the best of things by suggesting she would take them to the kosher butcher to be shechted. At least the family could enjoy a tasty dinner of roast duck. After years of starvation in the Pale, Sarah simply couldn't imagine not using the meat. That was just common sense. But I'll bet you can guess the end of the story.

Sarah returned duckless from the butcher. Tears were streaming down her face as she explained her reasoning: how could we eat those ducks? We weren't starving and as she exclaimed in her thick Yiddish accent, " They didn't do anything, those ducks!"

It was very traumatic for me then but it is genuinely heartbreaking to remember now. In the end it wasn't about the ducks. It was about Sarah who had suffered so even though she and her child also "hadn't done anything." It was about a father who felt powerless to provide for and protect his family. And it was about a confused little boy who didn't stop visiting the deserted duckhouse until they took it away.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A BIG Surprise

Lucy is really big on celebrations. Important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries and the like deserve to be big. The bigger the better. Of course Lucy is anxious to expedite this bigness. She loves being busy making bigness. Her family does not regard this as a virtue.

Around here, June is a really big month for family occasions. Jack's BDay, Carole's BDay, Jack and Carole's anniversary and Father's day fall within 10 days. I believe that justifies four big celebrations but the kids don't even want one. Such wet blankets.

This year I decided to take matters in my own hands. I went behind their backs. I plotted. I schemed. I lied and generally did what I darned well pleased. It was great. I need to do it more often. For 3 weeks I felt like I was back in the business world what with the delegating, strategizing and administrating. (Except for my corn I almost felt like putting on my high heels again---click-click-click down the halls--ah, those were the days...)

Well anyway, the grandkids and rest of the mishpocha all pitched in and we surprised Jack and Carole with a big BDay/anniversary/Fathers' Day bash. Whispered phone conversations, knowing glances, aligning our big, fat stories and keeping Jack and Carole even more in the dark than they usually are was the prime directive. And it worked.

The party was a huge success. Jack and Carole believed they were having a quiet dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. (Crafty Lucy gave them a gift certificate.) The whole gang was waiting for them in the Pope's Room of Bucca de Beppo and the fun began! Jack was crowned with Monty Python's Tim the Enchanter's horned headdress. Carole was presented with a brand new Punching Rabbi to replace the old one that had migrated to Manhattan. The food was wonderful, the company was better. And I was very proud of myself.

Especially after I paid the check.

Friday, June 16, 2006

For the Birds!

Though I don't consider myself an "animal person," I've always been fascinated by birds. The only pets my son ever had were 2 birds---ducks. (See my very first blog, "Four-legged Friends" from Feb 12.) Not a happy memory. But I digress.

Recently I received an exceptional link featuring the lyrebird and hosted by David/Richard(?) Attenborough. If you haven't seen it, I recommend you take a moment to watch it. Amazing!

Also, from Wikipedia re the charming painting above:

The lyrebird is so called because the male bird has a spectacular tail (consisting of 16 highly modified feathers (two long slender lyrates at the centre of the plume, two broader medians on the outside edges and twelve filamentaries arrayed between them), which was originally thought to resemble a lyre. This happened when a lyrebird specimen (which had been taken from Australia to England during the early 1800's) was prepared for display at the British Museum by a taxidermist who had never seen a live lyrebird. The taxidermist mistakenly thought that the tail would resemble a lyre, and that the tail would be held in a similar way to that of a peacock during courtship display, and so he arranged the feathers in this way. Later, John Gould (who had also never seen a live lyrebird), painted the lyrebird from the British Museum specimen.
Although very beautiful, the male lyrebird's tail is not as in John Gould's painting, nor is the tail held in such a manner. Instead, the male lyrebird's tail is fanned over the lyrebird during courtship display, with the tail completely covering his head and back.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Am I Small Enough Now?

I've been fretting about losing weight for Ben and Teresa's wedding. I know I won't be a size 6 again but I would like there to be a bit less of me by the the time I make my appearance as
Grandmother of the Groom. The problem is that I haven't been very disciplined about getting smaller. Somehow that makes me feel like, if not a failure, a bad girl. Hmmmm...

So. Why is smaller better? How small would be really, really good? It seems the bigger my ego gets the smaller I want to be---or is it the smaller I become the bigger my ego gets? Crazy! I'm 84 years old for heaven's sake.

I'm thinking about all this because of a link my granddaughter sent . Take a look at it and see what you think. It pretty much puts things in perspective.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Goin' Fishin'

Hi There! Lucy here---relatively healthy, relatively sane and always aspiring to be grateful. Just bits and pieces today as I'm waiting to go fishing. I wrote a fishing blog last week while I was wallowing in self-pity. I had the flu and felt every ache and pain of my 84 years and then some.

My daughter-in-law Carole and her sister Sue are North Dakota Norwegians. That means you suck it up and don't you dare try to make it somebody else's fault. I hate that about North Dakota Norwegians---or anybody else, for that matter. I absolutely adore making my misery the responsibility of others. But I digress...and I also love doing that.

In any case, I felt icky for at least two weeks. Not finding an audience for my whining and complaining I determined to find something enjoyable to think about while everybody ignored my obvious pain.

I was 40 before I went fishing. I'd never considered doing was hardly part of my urban/shetel mindset. Then I met Ted. He introduced me to both baseball and fishing---for which I'm eternally grateful. (Excuse me. Here I must inset a note to The Eternally Young and Lovely Naomi at No, Naomi, I never married Ted. But I wish I had---though it may not have made such a dramatic story!)

The original point is, I love fishing and will expound on it in my blog, "Lucy and the Art of Fishing," soon to be appearing on this site. However, I must have pictures to actually prove my ability and those are not immediately available. But they will be soon and I hope I look really young.

Is this a blog or merely a promise of a blog? Both, I hope. Please stay with me in spirit by looking "on the bright side of life." No, not the "Blight side"... the Bright Side. Yes. Please try. We all hurt. We all regret and we all fear. But none of those things must rule how we live---at least 51% of the time! And No! That's not easy for me to say. So promise me you'll try!

Here's a picture that made me happy yesterday. My granddaughter was hosting her Dutch pal in Manhattan. I hope we can all remember and continue to enjoy the riches of dear friends!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Remembering Alice

I saw Alice in Wonderland at the bagel shop yesterday. She was perfect: about 8 years old, long blond hair tied in a big bow, sky-blue dress and crisp white pinafore with a finely embroidered "A" on the right corner of a scalloped lace hem...Voluminous fluffy petticoats, long white stockings and dainty, strapped black slippers.

Alice was escorted by an apparently prosperous and preeningly proud papa. She was chatting with her mother on a purple cell phone. I craned my neck and strained my ears to hear every word. (The bagel shop is small so I succeeded.) Alice was returning home after starring in a matinee performance of a Lewis Carroll Anthology at the local arts center. "Alice" reported her performance had been stellar. Everyone thought she was fabulous. How nice for her.

Imagine. An 84 year old woman jealous of an 8 year old. Well, not exactly jealous, but certainly wistful. I was remembering when I tried to be Alice. It all started when my Aunt Hannah took me to a pre-Disney performance of Alice in Wonderland at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati. I was about 10 years old and I'd never been to a live performance of a play. I was therefore deeply grateful to my Aunt Hannah and transported by the play and the exquisite Alice.

About a year later I was inexplicably invited to a Halloween costume party. I say inexplicably because at 11 or 12 years and 5 feet tall I was poor, shy and weighed 140 pounds. Even at a time when anorexia was not the fashion norm I was hardly the social butterfly. In any case, I was invited to the party and inspired by the costume of the play I'd attended, decided to dress as Alice in Wonderland.

I appropriated my mother's apron to make a skirt. I found a scarf and, Ta-Da! fashioned a sash and bow. Then, Voila! I dug up a something-or-other to use as a bow for my hair. Just picture it. Luckily we didn't have a full-length mirror and I set out for the party in my truly bizarre "Alice" costume. None of the other guests even suspected who I was supposed to be, nor being interested enough, asked. I sat, as usual, quiet and unobtrusive---imagined I think, by others to be a dull gypsy or eccentric fat lady.

Sitting unobtrusively was not unfamiliar to me. However what happened next was truly traumatic. The boys at the party decided that we should play Post Office. One at a time, the boys would shut themselves in a dark closet and call one of the girls in for a kiss. I thought this sounded like fun and waited expectantly for my name to be called. It never was. Even the more unattractive, unpopular boys chose to go unkissed rather than call my name. I was mortified--but at some level not surprised. After all, I wasn't Alice and I certainly wasn't in Wonderland.

I spent decades proving those boys wrong. I became attractive, successful and confident---at least to others. But my real Alice didn't truly emerge until I gave all that up and embraced the lovely, inquisitive child I'd always been. How sad nobody recognized her when I was young. It would have saved me a lot of pointless anxiety. But then, on the other hand, perhaps Alice wouldn't have grown up to be me.